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2014’s National Distinguished Principals

By Connie Buford
2014’s National Distinguished Principals

Each year, the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) sponsors the National Distinguished Principals Award Program. This award recognizes outstanding educators who ensure that children acquire a sound foundation for lifelong learning and achievement. This program honors exceptional elementary and middle school principals (as well as heads of small schools which do not have principals) from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Department of Defense Schools, and American overseas schools assisted by the Office of Overseas Schools, U.S. Department of State.
This year the two award winners from the U.S. Department of State-assisted schools are Simon Gillespie from International School Manila, Philippines, and Robert Jackson from the QSI International School of Minsk, Belarus.
Simon Gillespie is currently the middle school principal at the International School Manila (ISM), where he is now in his ninth year. His first five years at ISM were spent in the elementary school as assistant principal and then principal, and he has now served four years in the middle school. ISM has a student population of 2,200 students with 680 in the middle school which comprises grades 5-8. The school is a diverse community with 80 different nationalities represented.
Simon has been actively involved in leading and facilitating the development and implementation of a school-wide curriculum framework aligned with the school mission and vision. As part of Simon’s curriculum work, he is an advisory board member and workshop leader with the Common Ground Collaborative, a new initiative being developed for international schools. He also serves on the advisory board for the New Frontier Inclusion, a program to support the integration of special needs programs into the regular classrooms. In addition, Simon is active in various community service programs in the Philippines.
Prior to coming to Manila, Simon was the elementary principal at the Dresden International School in Germany. He received his bachelors’ degree at the University of Alberta, Canada, and his masters’ degree from California State University Northridge. He is currently pursuing his doctorate at Walden University and expects to earn this degree in August, 2014. Simon’s doctoral dissertation is on the role of school leadership in moving international schools from exclusive to more inclusive admissions policies.
Simon is married to Kelly, who teaches high school English at ISM and is an International Baccalaureate workshop leader and examiner. They have a home in Bruges, Belgium, where they spend their holidays when not traveling.
Robert Jackson is currently the head of the QSI International School of Minsk, a small school supporting the embassies in the capital of Belarus. With just 125 students from 35 countries preschool to grade 12, the school has one administrator who is both the principal and school head. Since his appointment to the school, Robert has successfully increased enrollment by 80 percent, established an iPad program, and introduced student-led conferences. As a fluent Russian speaker, he has raised the school’s profile by reaching out to the community, working with new families and dozens of embassies to provide an exceptional education for expatriate students during their time in Minsk. Additionally, he teaches a daily advanced mathematics class for secondary students.
In the network of QSI schools, Robert serves on the technology committee, provides orientation for new QSI staff in the region, and leads professional development seminars. In two schools, he has instituted successful BYOD programs, introducing technology implementation into the instructional day. Robert is an adjunct professor, who teaches an instructional technologies course through Buffalo State University, New York.
Before arriving in Minsk, Robert served as the middle school director of instruction at the QSI schools in Shekou, China and Kyiv, Ukraine. During his time in Ukraine, he also supervised the Intensive English (ELL) program, with a focus on integrating emerging language students into the homeroom class by implementing a co-teaching model. Prior to these administrative roles, he spent eight years as a teacher of science, mathematics, and IB Theory of Knowledge.
Mr. Jackson is married and has two school-aged children who attend the school in Minsk. He earned his bachelors’ degree at Johnson University and masters’ degree at Wheaton, with additional certifications in teaching mathematics, science, and International School Leadership. Originally from Indiana, he is happy to have had the experience of working all over the world.

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